Recently, there's been a great deal of discussion about working for free over at the SportsShooter website - (Working for free, Working for Free - Part 2, Unpaid spreading like the Flu, When is it ok to work for free) , and over at the Photo District News forums - This industry sucks with low ball photographers. We were also critical of doing so with Cal Sports Media (Speculative Photography - The SPEC-agency's Mentality, 10/23/07) on the subject. Appeals abound even on Craigslist - HELP! If you have access to a favorite sport; or "Compensation will be a commemorative t-shirt and a ticket to the banquet..." and they go on and on.
I hear a great deal from photographers who are asked to work for free, or whom were replaced by someone willing to work for photo credit, and paying to shoot something (by way of paying un-reimbursed expenses associated with the no fee shoot).
Re-enter US Presswire. We were critical of their contract and business dealings (US Presswire - Introduction, 7/27/07) last Summer. Now, it looks as if they're running into problems with getting enough free photographers to work for them.
Here's the letter, which went out from Bob Rosato, Founder, President, and owner of US Presswire:
Greetings to all-
I mentioned to you all in a previous email we have several new deals in the hopper. Some of these deals and some we want to work on require us as an
organization to have enough day to day coverage to package for those deals.
In the fall, many photographers will come back and be ready for football coverage. We are in need of more day to day baseball coverage. But some
have not committed to shooting much if any baseball or other events in the respective areas.
What this will ultimately cause is us not to have teams credential us for playoffs, or possibly the following year. We don’t need to cover every game
every day, but we need more. If we bring in new people who are committed to shooting baseball and other events, then come time for football both college and pro, we have to give them consideration in areas where photographers are shooting very little if at all.
If any of you have questions about this, you need to get with me or Dan. But we need to be more aggressive with our coverage overall. We’d rather
have your help to do this in our MLB cities, but if we cant accomplish the goal with you, we have to look elsewhere for help and the will jeopardize
football credentials come fall because we are not going to over saturate any area and we’ll only get so many passes. Our relationship with the NFL and
the schools has improved over the years and we expect bigger things this year.
Everyone in the MLB markets needs to step it up a bit so we can continue to put packages together for sales potential as well as the deals we have in
place. Once again, I assure you we are working long and hard hours to resolve issues and we need your help as well.
I cannot emphasize how strong our placement in the market is becoming and the pending deals we have going on will excite everyone once they are
closed. I need to hear from you.
Thanks for everything!
At what point does the fun of shooting a professional sports game from the sidelines wear off? After the last free hotdog/soda voucher? When you realize you've paid $200 in parking in recent months and not even seen $50 as your portion of sales? When your image that ran in X publication just included the "Photo: US Presswire" and not your name, so you couldn't brag about it to your friends? When the sales you "received" were reversed as they were actually part of a promotional deal with the publication to try to get them to sign a deal?
It seems, from the USPW letter, that there are a lot of fans of football. Why might this be? Perhaps for the weekend/evening games, allowing for a "day job" during the week to subsidize the weekend warrior-photographer thing? Perhaps it's that there are 4 pre-season games and about 16 other games, from August through December, as compared to about 162 for baseball during their season. That means it's probably pretty hard to get someone to work for free for 81 days a year, on top of their day job! (as if 1/2 of the games are at home). And this doesn't even take into consideration all the other sporting events - college/etc, they no doubt want you to cover as well.
The hook is that if you put in your time - "If we bring in new people who are committed to shooting baseball and other events, then come time for football both college and pro, we have to give them consideration in areas where photographers are shooting very little if at all." then the rub is this -- your time shooting for free a sport which you've previously not been interested in, will give you priority for the few football games you actually are interested in. Then he goes on to say "if we cant accomplish the goal with you, we have to look elsewhere for help and the will jeopardize football credentials come fall because we are not going to over saturate any area." So, if you won't work for free now, we'll find someone who will, and then they'll get first priority for the free press credentials for football.
Between Major League Baseball, and Major League Football, covering these sporting events for free, for the purpose of getting a credential is just not a wise move. Instead, if USPW provided a guarantee for every game covered, of, say $400, plus they covered the expenses, that would begin to be reasonable. This way, they guaranteed you $400, and if your images earned less than that FROM THAT GAME, you still kept the money for your efforts. If you earned more than the $400, you still got your share. This is a common pricing structure for Time/Warner properties, like Time magazine, so it's surely not foreign to someone on staff at another Time/Warner property - Sports Illustrated - Bob Rosato - who also wrote this e-mail as a part of his role with USPW - Owner, President, and founder.
It's one thing to shoot for peanuts when you're a stay-at-home-mom making photos while your child naps, or you file your images from your vacation with a microstock house for a few bucks of spending money down the line, but to commit days and days worth of work with little hope of compensation is just going to wear thin sooner rather than later.
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